Doesn’t that blow your mind a little? When you look up in the sky, it doesn’t end.
Han Solo and Chewbacca could travel at light speed in the Millennium Falcon forever, and they’d never get to the ‘far reaches of the galaxy’, because it just keeps going on and on. (Which is what some presentations feel like.)
This is difficult for humans to fathom. Our brain can’t process things that don’t end. It causes overwhelm, which shuts down our processing and recall faculties.
This, however, creates a unique opportunity. The human mind yearns for structure and defined limits – a clearly defined start and end. When we provide this to our listeners, they process what you say with less effort and find it easier to remember.
You know how to start a speech, here’s how to maximise the end of your speech or presentation.
Last words linger. Don’t waste them
The end of your talk is automatically a focal point for your audience. The last words you say provide you with a singular opportunity to embed a message into the mind of your listeners.
How often have you sat through a presentation that trails off at the end with no real point? It’s amazing how many presenters seem surprised by the ending of their own talk! The final slide comes up and the speaker says, “Oh um, I guess that’s it. So… any questions?”
And yet, the end of your presentation is your golden moment to leverage all the words you’ve said until then.
The door to credibility (don’t rush past it)
Worse still, a weak ending diminishes your credibility. Why? When the audience doesn’t get the structure they crave, your ideas seem weaker, less important, less memorable, less complete.
And because you’re the speaker who delivered this unsatisfying combination, you don’t appear to have as much authority.
People expect completion. That’s what an end is.
Conversely, having a strong, relevant ending boosts your credibility, satisfies your audience and increases their trust in you.
Your last words can crystallize your message and activate your audience.
Just end it!
Learn to observe what an ending feels like. Good comedians often end on a strong joke and good audience reaction – rather than the ending they planned. They are attuned to the opportunity of closing on a high note.
They become experts at endings. You can too.
I watched a much-loved sports legend capture an audience for 30 minutes at a conference. Great stories with a lesson or two from an icon. At one point it felt like the talk was coming to an end and I remember thinking ‘Good work. Tidy speech’.
But he was enjoying himself so much he kept talking. More stories and more wisdom. Unfortunately it ruined his talk. There was no structure to his stories now and we didn’t know how to process his random points of wisdom.
Do you see what can happen? Even when you engage your audience, not having a clear ending can effect their perception of the WHOLE presentation.
“How was the speech?”
Options to engage them at the end:
1.Plan the final message first.
Establish your take home message at the very start of your planning. Think of it as the first thing you plan and last thing you say.
Write it down, but in the words you would say when talking. So many people write in ‘corporate speak’ which doesn’t flow comfortably when it comes out of your mouth. Picture your audience and craft a 1 or 2 sentence message you want them to take away.
Example: “This product will save you money by…” or “We are where we need to be with this month’s sales targets because…” or “There are 2 reasons why this project is needed. Firstly X, secondly Y.”
2. Finish with a statement, not a question.
Upward inflection is a question. Downward inflection is a statement. A question and/or upward inflection imply there is more coming. So it doesn’t work well to end.
And when you know you have a strong ending, you automatically speak with certainty – which makes it easier to add impact with your voice and emphasise your message.
3. Give them a sign
Give your audience a signal that the end is coming to prime them for your memorable end.
For example: Face the audience. Take a big breath or long pause before your final statement. Say something like; ‘To wrap up,’ ‘In conclusion’ or ‘Here’s what to do next’.
This sets their mind up for your memorable statement.
4. Tell them what to DO
Many speakers are hoping their audience will take action, but they fail to ask for it. If you want your audience to do something you better say it, deliver a call-to-action or show them how-to steps.
For example: “Allocate a budget to fund stage 2 of the project so we can ensure benefits X, Y, Z” or “We need you to give us feedback within 24 hours…”
5. Refer back to an earlier point in your presentation
A Top-and-Tail is a term we used in radio for placing an ad or promo at the start and end of a break. The top-and-tail leverages the mind’s response to structure in your presentation as well. At the start you provide a quote, example, story, a shocking fact or figure that emphasises the need for change etc. Then you repeat this at the end and it comes to life because the content of your talk has given it greater meaning.
A Title Close is where you give your speech a provocative title that encapsulates your message. Your presentation fleshes out your argument. Then, use the title of your speech as your closing words to stir your audience and embed your message.
6. Blank the screen
If you’re using slides, consider blanking the screen (using the B key) which changes the mood of the room and refocuses the audience on you as you deliver your vivid message.
The holy grail of communication is a transferable message.
It can create word of mouth momentum that can make or break the success of a project.
The ultimate test of your message: would the key members of your audience repeat it to their friends or colleagues?
Test your message out loud and see if you can ‘hear’ them repeating it. Does it flow from their lips? If it does, you know you’ve got a powerful end to your presentation. Could they recall your message a day later? A week later? Could they repeat it to their colleagues in the big meeting next month when they actually make the decision??
This is what you’re speaking for; message recall.
You are there to get a message across that can be recalled later, and if you miss ending, you jeopardize the recall.
If you’d like to develop your presentation skills, consider:
- Presentation Skills Training
- Presentation Skills public course
- Personal Coaching
- Message Development Sessions
Want to be a great speaker? Get the kindle ebook from amazon.com: What’s Your Message? Public Speaking with Twice the Impact, Using Half the Effort